But three verses don’t give the account justice.
Matthew 8 and Luke 5 give equally brief versions of this story, the way it’s told, I imagine a guy pulling up to the noisy speaker at Burger King, asking for healing, and then being asked to go to the second window. It happens so quickly that the story of the leper seems to be minimized. In and out in 60 seconds (or your next one is free).
I’m not really sure there is anyone in our society today that you could associate with leprosy. There was such a physical fear for your health combined with the spiritual stigma of the supposed punishment from God tied to leprosy that we don’t really have a modern equivalent.
Check out this post from Johnnie Moore, The God With Dirty Hands, that re-tells the story from the leper’s point of view:
He [Jesus] stopped and looked in my direction as did dozens of others. A flood of fear swept across the crowd. Arms flew in front of faces. Children ducked behind parents. “Unclean!” someone shouted. Again, I don’t blame them. I was a huddled mass of death. But I scarcely heard them. I scarcely saw them.
Their panic I’d seen a thousand times. His compassion, however, I’d never beheld.
Everyone stepped back except Him. He stepped toward me. Toward me.
Five years ago my wife had stepped toward me. She was the last to do so. Now He did. I did not move. I just spoke. “Lord, You can heal me if You will.” Had he healed me with a word, I would have been thrilled. Had he cured me with a prayer, I would have rejoiced. But He wasn’t satisfied with speaking to me. He drew near me. He touched me. Five years ago my wife had touched me. No one had touched me since. Until today.
The touch of Jesus was all it took to yank this man out of his misery and re-create his story. Within seconds, the leper’s life course was totally altered one more time.
I don’t think that any of us have ever dealt with total and complete rejection from society. When you read how people suffering from the disease was treated by society and then you see that Jesus ignored what he looked like, how his health affected his appearance, and what people around Jesus would say and He touched him, that is unreal.
I think the challenge for me out of all of this is not just to learn the lesson of love that Jesus is teaching us there, but also not to skip over short Scriptures and ignore the impact of the moment they are describing.